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Retired pastor, gun violence prevention advocate, to speak

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Author, hunter, National Rifle Association member and retired Presbyterian pastor James Atwood will speak at Bethel College March 19.

The event is at 7 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium in Luyken Fine Arts Center and is free and open to the public.

Atwood, of Springfield, Virginia, has been a board member for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence for more than 30 years. He became involved in gun violence prevention after a member of his congregation was shot and killed by a robber with a “Saturday night special.”

Atwood is pastor emeritus of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Arlington, Virginia, which he served from 1984- 99. However, it was at his previous congregation, Grace Presbyterian, Springfield, where he experienced the death by gunshot of a parishioner.

In addition to his involvement with the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Atwood is currently chair of Heeding God’s Call of Greater Washington, a faith-based ecumenical movement encouraging gun shops to adopt a code of conduct that deters illegal purchasing and the trafficking of handguns.

He has also been interfaith coordinator of the Million Mom March and a national committee member of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship.

Atwood is the author of America and Its Guns: A Theological Exposé (Wipf & Stock, 2012) and a contributor to Gun Violence, Gospel Values: Mobilizing in Response to God’s Call, a resource for Presbyterians approved by the 219th General Assembly in 2010.

The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship National Committee unanimously selected Atwood to receive the 2014 Peaceseeker Award, presented at the General Assembly last summer in Detroit.

Atwood’s visit to Bethel is part of a speaking tour in Kansas and Nebraska, March 15-22, in which he will discuss the issues covered in America and Its Guns.

His itinerary has been organized and is sponsored by the Mercy & Justice Team of the Great Plains Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (encompassing Kansas and Nebraska), the Topeka Center for Peace and Justice, the Peace and Social Justice Center of South-Central Kansas in Wichita, and Nebraskans for Peace.

For more about Atwood’s appearance at Bethel College, contact the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (KIPCOR), 316-284-5217.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2014-15 Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States, and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2014-15. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.

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